Mexico’s Drug War
by Ben Davis
A clean-cut sixth grade student, Juan Carlos Montero attends a private Christian school. He is not a Christian, but his parents decided to enroll him there because its quality was much higher than schools run by the government. Juan Carlos comes from a middle-class Mexican family. His father, a hardworking and honest man, is a salesman for a US company, and his loving mother packs her son a healthy lunch every day. Still, what appears to be a secure and safe living environment does not exist for the Monteros. Drug violence in the country, especially over the last five years, has changed their lives. Juan Carlos’s parents don’t allow him to walk the two short blocks to and from his elementary school because of the danger of getting caught in a crossfire. When he arrives home from school, Juan Carlos stays inside the house. His parents might let him play with his two dogs on the patio for a little while, but playtime and family time are strongly defined by the limits of their small piece of property.
An Ongoing War
The Mexican drug war has made headline news nearly every day for the past several years. Tourists avoid popular vacation destinations because of drug-war activity that threatens once peaceful communities. Church leadership and parent groups in the United States and Canada agonize about sending young people on short-term mission trips to Mexico, knowing the risk involved. And Mexican border towns like Ciudad Juarez are now recognized as among the most violent cities in the world outside declared war zones.
The issue is huge and tangled, but the motivation is simply put. The American population’s insatiable appetite for illegal drugs, coupled with Mexico’s inherent poverty and proximity to the United States, has propagated the long-term funneling of illegal substances. According to the CIA, Mexico continues to be “the primary transshipment country for US-bound cocaine from South America, with an estimated 90% of annual cocaine movements toward the US stopping in Mexico; . . . [and it is a] major supplier of heroin and largest foreign supplier of marijuana and methamphetamine to the US market.”1 Some media commentators have suggested that the Mexican government, unable to stem the tide of the drug war, is on the verge of the losing the battle with drug cartels.
Innocent bystanders and the young citizens of Mexico are perhaps of greatest concern. What will their future look like? It’s unlikely that Mexico’s drug war will easily abate, allowing its people and communities to return to peace anytime soon. Some Mexican citizens compare the consequences of warfare over the business of illegal drugs in their country to the 1920s Prohibition battle in the United States. However similar the analogy, the fact remains that with a soaring birth rate and massive poverty, the situation in Mexico is much more complex.
The Culture of Drugs
Mexican narcos (drug gangsters) often subcontract their work. They bring in a young, cheap labor force of drug gangsters known as “narco-juniors.” Narco-juniors are not just pedaling marijuana on the street corners; they are also paid to kill, and are given several hundred dollars per head. This means that a poor teenage boy can make as much money as his father earns in one month—just by pulling a trigger. To justify this chilling lifestyle, many narco-juniors claim that the individuals they kill victimized others—terrible crimes like murder, torture, and rape.
Narcocorridos are songs glamorizing the drug-trafficking lifestyle. Similar to gangster rap, song lyrics glorify guns, drugs, alcohol, and sexy women. They uphold actions of kidnapping, torture, murder, bribes, and government corruption (on both sides of the border). Many people listen to this music, which only adds to the aura and desire of money and power. Narcos also have a style of clothing. This too has woven its way into mainstream wear.
Drug trafficking is destroying Mexican youth. Unlike some areas of the world where the problem is the use of drugs, it is the trafficking of drugs that is so relentlessly damaging. “Just say no” is the phrase former first lady Nancy Reagan made famous. This slogan might be useful in discouraging drug use, but it is incapable of stopping drug trafficking. In Mexico, “Just say no” can lead to torture and death of individuals and their family members. Countless upright Mexican authorities have lost their lives in the battle against drugs, and the scourge has spread to officials’ loved ones, coworkers, and friends.
Looking for Answers
Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, has gone to war against drug trafficking since taking office in December of 2006. Much positive has come from this. However, the resulting violence has hurt the soul of the country. Many of the kidnappings over the last half decade are a result of narcos being out of work. Used to making extreme sums of cash without an education, some “unemployed” narcos have turned to kidnapping to maintain their lavish lifestyles. Who has been kidnapped? Largely, business owners and professionals and their family members. This, more than any other factor, has dampened the entrepreneurial spirit in Mexico. The answer to rise out of poverty is no longer to educate oneself and work hard—it has become: get out of the country.
Going back to sixth-grader Juan Carlos and his family—What is their hope? Where is their hope? And who will the Monteros look to for guidance?
The answers to all of these questions lie in our savior, Jesus Christ. For no man on earth can solve all of a nation’s problems, especially Mexico’s. True and lasting change comes through a personal relationship with Jesus. Corrupt drug criminals, drug traffickers, narco-juniors, and drug users must also hear of Jesus’ love. Courageous (and sometimes terrified) politicians and government workers must come to know him. Jesus can transform their lives, and in turn they will be delighted to share the gospel and their lives (see 1 Thess. 2:8) with their neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends.
• for the youth who are under extreme pressure to make quick money through drug trafficking
• for the youth as they begin to take career steps in a country dominated by insecurity
• for the safety of Mexican politicians and law enforcement officers trying to do what is right
• for God’s divine intervention in the souls of drug traffickers
1. “Illicit Drugs,” The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency, updated June 2011,
Reprinted from the 2012 Prayer Diary and Daily Planner (Seattle: YWAM Publishing, 2011). Illustration © Julie Bosacker. Used by permission.